It’s Our Anniversary!
Well…not quite the kind that first comes to mind but, a very important one to me and the other members of Our Children, Our Future, Inc. (O.C.O.F., Inc.)
As we reach this incredible milestone (10 years of providing assistance to underprivileged children in the Cabo Verde Islands), I cannot help but contemplate about our journey. The journey has included laughs, cries, challenges, excitement, and much more. It has been a very rewarding experience to lead such an amazing and important organization.
It all began on April 28, 2006. Well, actually the idea came to mind when I took my first trip back home at the age of 15. So, let me back up a little bit. I was born in the island of São Vicente, Cabo Verde and immigrated to the United States of America at the age of 12 to live with my dad, my stepmom, and my sisters. My older sister accompanied me on the trip from the Cabo Verde Islands. My mom and family members on my mom’s side stayed behind.
I had a pretty amazing childhood in the Cabo Verde Islands, one that I will treasure forever. My memories consist of sitting on the porch of our home with my grandmother while she told us vivid stories about her childhood, playing outside with my friends, walking to and from school, and enjoying festivities throughout the year. At first, living in the United States of America was not pleasant…I felt out of place. I soon realized that it is a place full of opportunities where one can make his or her dreams come true with hard work, commitment, and persistence. I began to love and appreciate my new life and all that it offered to me and my family.
At the age of 15, I returned home to visit my mom. There was one incident that stuck with me, which contributed to the foundation of Our Children, Our Future, Inc. While walking in the city of Mindelo in the island of Sao Vicente with one of my aunts, I noticed that there where children sleeping outside and using newspapers as blankets. I was very concerned about their well being as it was getting late. I asked my aunt why the kids were not going home. She said that they did not have homes to go to. That was the moment that I realized what was really going on in the Cabo Verde Islands and decided to assist underprivileged children.
The desire to help the underprivileged children in the Cabo Verde Islands was enhanced during a mission trip with the Cabo Verdean Student Association at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth, MA. After that trip, my main goal was to start an organization that would benefit underprivileged children in my homeland. I always think that I could have been one of those children, that my daughter could have been one of those children. That is why I am always motivated to do what I do.
Our mission is to provide food, clothing, school supplies, and toys to the disadvantaged youth of the Cabo Verde Islands. We have provided these goods, donated and purchased through fundraising, to many schools and youth programs since our incorporation, and helped hundreds of children. Our affiliate organizations are located in most of the islands. There are 8 active organizations in the islands of Brava, Boa Vista, Fogo, Sal, Santiago, and São Vicente. Our objective is to include all the islands.
One of the most incredible highlights throughout this journey is the recognition by the Cabo Verdean Government in 2015. As the founder and president of the organization, it was quite an honor to meet the Prime Minister at that time and receive the prestigious medal.
As our Vice-President and Events Manager, Denise, and Treasurer, KyQuan, welcomed our guests during our 10th Annual Fundraiser/Celebration, I felt proud and overjoyed for being present to celebrate such an important milestone for our organization. I felt honored and excited that each individual at the Whitman VFW 697 decided to join us that night. I felt much appreciation for each of them. I saw new faces and most importantly, very familiar faces. It showed me that those who have been supporting our mission have enjoyed and appreciated our journey as much as we have.
It was such a pleasure to stand before everyone as we celebrated our organization and our culture while raising funds for our children in the Cabo Verde Islands. I was thrilled to have my daughter with me to experience it all. As I watched her take part in all the aspects of the event (dancing, speaking on the microphone, taking pictures, talking to guests, etc.), I became more certain about my decision to establish our organization. She told me that morning that she was excited to attend the event and asked if she was considered a member of O.C.O.F., Inc.
As members of our organization discussed our programs, I felt proud as we have been able to establish four programs, which include: Education for Our Children, Child Sponsorship Program , Community Outreach, and Cultural Exchange.
Our Child sponsorship Program is our latest and the most active program at the moment. All details are available here: http://www.childrenofcaboverde.org/Pages/ChildSponsorshipProgram.aspx
O.C.O.F. Inc. achieves its mission by conducting monthly meetings, traveling to the Cabo Verde Islands to assess specific needs of affiliate organizations, attending conferences and workshops about nonprofit management, organizing shipments of donated items to the Cabo Verde Islands, initiating drives to solicit donations (i.e.: Back to School Drive; Toy Drive, etc.), sponsoring an annual fundraising dinner, managing current programs, collaborating with local organizations, and more.
We recruited our first organization, “Centro De Recuperacao Nutricional”, in 2008 and slowly added more organizations. To date, we have assisted 11 organizations (nonprofit organizations and public schools) and we have 8 active organizations dispersed throughout the islands.
It goes without saying that behind a great leader lies a great team of dedicated individuals. Our team has “worked” tirelessly and selflessly to assist underprivileged children in the Cabo Verde Islands. This journey would not have been the same without each and every single of them. The picture below reflects only half of the members of the organization, who were able to attend the fundraiser/celebration. I am excited for what the future holds for our organization.
Our message to all is that a simple act of kindness can go a long way in making a difference in someone’s life. We believe that Our Children are Our Future as they will become future leaders in our communities.
Our 7th mission trip is scheduled for April of 2018, our next “Bidon” Session is scheduled for October 14, 2017, and Toy Drive scheduled for December of 2017.
#ocof #ocofinc #ocof4life #education #caboverde #capeverde